The stains on the old paper blurred and shifted into forms. Out of the schedule lines and markings emerged new and slowly changing colors - little bumps of cream bulged into bales - discolorations of red-browns and greens grew legs and branches. Out of the unfolding fuzzy blotches of gray and brown blinked pairs of glaring red eyes, peering through the emerging bushes and trees. Odd squares raised between the words "oxen", "pigs", "cow" and "calf", corralling them into sectioned spaces. The census dashes for male / and female / grew little legs and arms. These stick figures, dawned in the yards of cotton and flannel, picked up their tools, pulled their shanty out of the earth, and began to work the barrel containing the cream. The dot above the word "blacksmith" grew glowing red, dropped into a stone pit and spewed fire onto the tongs and the pots of maple sap.
In harsh weather when there was no farming to be done Thomas made his way to the new foundry in Peterborough to work as an extra hand, leaving Mary Anne to tend to the winter chores alone. They had no children; each had succumbed to boat fever (typhus) on the ocean journey. He seemed able to suppress the feelings over their deaths. And he seemed able to suppress any concerns over Mary Ann's safety. Wild weather. Wolves. Bears. Snakes. This was not selfishness. This was survival necessity. Besides, she was a brave shot with the musket and had decent survival skills.
I have no idea if Thomas and Mary Ann argued, how much, or over what. But the purchase of the oxen would have been a major expenditure. I also have no idea if Mary Ann was or was not willing to hitch up that team and participate in the tilling. She most likely did planting and reaping. To follow up on the couple, in the 1861 census they were no longer on the farm but living in the township of Emily near the large foundry in Peterborough. The area was known for having a large Irish Protestant community. Common knowledge claims that many Irish fled poverty and famine in the mid 1800s, immigrating to the Americas. The fact that both Herse families were listed as members of the Protestant Church of England in the censuses may indicate an additional clue to the possible reasons for their 1845 migration from Ireland.
A poignant touch in the 1861 census shows that the couple had taken in a young school girl - not a family member - an Irish girl named Ann Revington from Ennismore in Upper Canada. Their house was a log house - much more comfortable than the shanty. Perhaps they had abandoned the farm. Perhaps they managed it from the distance.
Agriculture and Economic Development in Quebec and Ontario until 1870
By John McCallum
University of Toronto Press, 1980
ISBN 9781442682894 1442682892
I was so surprised to find that John McCallum was not a stereotypical adjunct teacher stuck in a back room of some smallish college. I was going to send him an email thanking him for writing the book - but I think he probably doesn't read such trivial correspondence.
The Irish in Ontario - A Study in Rural History
By Donald Harman Akenson
McGill-Queen's University Press, 1984
Historical Atlas of Canada , Vol. II - The Land Transformed, 1800 - 1891
University of Toronto Press, 1993
AND - I have had uncontrollable urges to consume huge quantities of barbeque pork while preparing this blog.
Other Great Sources used in creating this story:
A Few Canadian Critters by John James Audubon
Farming and Canada Links Page One
Farming and Canada Links Page Two